IPA Spotlight On … LeighAnn Costley, Frazier & Deeter

LeighAnn Costley

LeighAnn Costley

Name: LeighAnn Costley

Title: Partner

Firm Name: Frazier & Deeter

No. of offices: 4

No. of employees: 300+

Accomplishments: Leadership Atlanta class of 2013, Atlanta Business Chronicle “Up and Comers” award, Philanthropic Leader of Tomorrow award, Executive Women of Emory’s Goizueta School of Business “Guiding Star” award; Leader, Frazier & Deeter’s Women’s Business Leadership Initiative.

Tell me about a few of the initiatives that have made a difference on the growth of women-led businesses?

Frazier & Deeter’s Women’s Initiative just marked its fifth anniversary in 2015. One of the programs that is very popular is a series of panel events that feature women business owners and senior executives of large companies discussing topics like growing the business or leadership lessons they’ve learned.

We’ve found there is a tremendous positive response from women business owners. They are energized by hearing ideas for taking their business to a new level and making connections with people who can help them accelerate growth. The insight from other women, combined with the new business connections, is a powerful, meaningful combination.

Another high-impact initiative Frazier & Deeter has helped to grow is a three-day executive learning program designed for women entrepreneurs called LaunchPad2X. The three days cover a variety of topics that entrepreneurs need to understand – everything from entity structure to intellectual property law to working with investors. It’s a wonderful program that we teach in conjunction with an angel investment group. It’s especially exciting because the program has produced strong statistics about the economic impact of the participants’ companies.

FinalWorksheetWhy do you think it’s so important for your firm to support and nurture women-owned businesses?

Women-owned businesses are an important part of the growth of the U.S. economy. Our offices are in states with especially high rates for growth of women-led businesses and we feel that helping those businesses grow will have a positive impact on the economy. Statistics about small businesses show that although more women than men are starting businesses, women-led businesses are less likely to reach the $1 million mark. If we can help more of them surpass that milestone, and then surpass the $10 million mark, it will create jobs and have an impact on the economy. Of course, it’s also great for Frazier & Deeter because we will have a very strong relationship as business advisors with the company’s founder.

Frazier & Deeter has also been recognized as a top firm for women CPAs. Which leadership qualities best ensure success in public accounting and how can women develop those skills?

I think success in building a book of business is largely built on soft skills of connecting with people on a personal level, listening to their needs and then bringing them financial insight. Women have all these qualities.

Within the firm, women need to remember to take the time to participate in activities that will raise their visibility both inside the firm and in the community. This can be a challenge, especially if you have family obligations, but it can be done.

Of course one of the obvious moves a woman can make is to join a firm with a track record of nurturing female partners. If the firm doesn’t offer flexibility that would help you advance, maybe you should find a firm that does.

Advice for new CPAs joining the profession?

Be involved. Don’t fall into the trap of being “heads down” so much that you aren’t making connections in the community. Remember also that it takes years to build your reputation and nurture relationships; don’t wait until you are on the precipice of making partner and expected to generate revenue to begin that process.

Final thoughts?

Public accounting provides a fabulous platform for a unique and varied career – you can be a generalist or a specialist, a deep technical expert or a rainmaker, you can advise individuals or Fortune 500 companies, you can “off-ramp” if you choose to have children and “lean in” whenever you choose. Most of us initially chose this career because we liked numbers, but it’s the relationships you build with clients and colleagues that keep us here.

Do you know someone else who would make a good Spotlight? Contact Christina Camara.